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No phone, no social media and no Google maps. Just real life.

In our last post we introduced you to our brand new event which encourages people to raise money for Scope whilst giving up technology for the weekend – Digital Detox is a good old-fashioned weekend without technology.

In the lead-up to her analogue 48 hours, Alice Wilkie started a blog documenting her fears and panic over losing digital.

5 Days to go

I am going 48 hours without digital in aid of Scope, raising money that could potentially provide assisted technologies to those who need it. As of today, the data on my phone has run out. I have a monthly allowance of 1GB but I ALWAYS run out part way through the month and 9 times out of 10 will top it up. This time however, I thought it would be better to dip my toe in the water and leave it, and guess what? ME NO LIKEY.

I think it’s fair to say I’m feeling pretty anxious. I spoke to my Mum on the phone tonight and she said I can’t possibly go without a phone in London. Love you Mum, but it’s happening.

4 days to go

Running out of data is definitely giving me a taste of what the weekend is going to be like. I went to an event about social entrepreneurship yesterday afternoon. It was at a place I’ve never been to before, and my Google maps was not working due to lack of data allowance. So I literally had to (shock-horror!) use street signs and speak to people!

Talking to strangers was actually rather nice. One man even called up his friend to ask him for directions to the place I was looking for as he was unsure. However, part of me has been thinking it would be nice to top up my data and make the most of my apps and stuffs before the weekend.

3 days to go

Today was focus groups training day! Woo! This is a course I’ve been looking forward to going on. It’s basically all about how to run focus groups and get the best out of them – it was extremely interesting! Overall I had a great day – however, no data plus no WiFi meant I was unable to check Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Twitter, Emails… Nothing! ALL. DAY. And again, I had to ask a stranger for directions. This time I opted for a fruit and veg stall man, and rather embarrassingly I was standing outside the hotel I was looking for. I think this made me realise just how dependent I am on my Google maps… So much so that I’m incapable of just looking around me and using a bit of common sense!

2 days to go

So! Really chuffed with how many donations I’ve got – £73 so far! That’s 152% of my £48 target. So thank you so much to all who have donated! All day today my work colleague, Claudia, has suggested that I buy a board game. Lovely idea Claudia… But no. Plus I’m not going to have anyone to play with at this rate. Oooh, in happier news – my data has been renewed! This means I have spent as much time as possible today listening to Spotify.

Camera and photos
Looking forward to using this for 48 hours instead of Instagram

I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to fill my time this weekend… Most prominent ideas include – getting drunk for 48 hours, reading my book, getting the train somewhere and having a mooch, taking pictures with Rupert’s polaroid camera, going to the gym, going for a long walk, going to see Ellie, sleeping all weekend, or rocking up at my Nan’s house as a surprise.

Wonder whether I’ll do any of the above. Other worries include – what am I going to do without speaking to the boyfriend all weekend?! We must literally exchange about 50 texts/ Facebook messages/ Whatsapps/ Youtube clips/ Snapchats per day. Oh… And speak for around an hour most nights on the phone.

Ah well… You know the saying… Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

15 hours and 28 minutes to go…

I’m going into a digital coma. No phone, no internet, no social media, but most importantly NO GOOGLE MAPS. I think that is what I am freaking out about most…

Notebook and post-it notes
Ready for my digital free weekend with my old school notebook and Facebook message post-it notes!

On the way home from work

My phone died.

Boyfriend writingI was freaking out on the bus. I ALWAYS listen to Spotify when I’m on the bus, and I couldn’t. The 20 minute journey seemed like an hour long. Plus, when I got to my front door, I rang and rang the doorbell and nobody answered. Thankfully my phone decided it would turn back on for a quick burst so that I could call my boyfriend to let me in.

Wow, this weekend is going to be harder than I imagined. I knew it was going to be hard, but I was kind of joking about it and not thinking it through too much, but NOW it’s hit me! Eeek.

My lovely boyfriend wrote me a little note for the weekend 🙂

I’ve had some wine and I’m feeling pretty sad now.

Who’d have thought turning your phone and internet off for 48 hours would be so emotional?!

Only 33 minutes to go…

Saturday 23 November

So, on Saturday I literally woke up with clammy hands from DREAMING about the Internet?! I lay in bed for about an hour resisting the urge to check my phone before getting up like I usually would. After having a coffee and showering, I thought I might as well brave the outdoors and see how I get on.

At 11am I got the tube to Piccadilly Circus and walked to Oxford Street. I had a mooch around and found the camera shop Lomography on Carnaby Street. I’d never been to Carnaby Street before- it’s so cute! I was pretty surprised how easy it was to get around without Google maps. Admittedly it probably took me 5-10 minutes longer than it normally would – but I got there.

I then walked to Regent’s Park to experiment with the camera (Just going started now – I didn’t quite work the camera out over the weekend… You’ll see this from my photos! Out of 20 Polaroids you can only see something resembling a picture in about 4).

I found I was really aware of myself without having my phone or my headphones. Particularly on public transport where I always have my headphones on or am chatting away on my phone. I also noticed that I kept tapping my right coat pocket to check my phone was in there- which I normally do out of habit every 10 mins or so it seemed!

When I got back I called Gaz on the landline. Was so nice to chat, but really strange talking on the phone and not being able to move (old school landline)! Sounds silly but it was really weird putting the phone down and not being able to send a text or anything?! As normally we’d get off the phone and send a text goodnight or something. Gaz said he’d found the day difficult too, particularly not being able to send me funny Youtube clips!

Overall, the day was hard, but I did feel kind of liberated. One day down, one to go.

Sunday 24 November

Felt a bit better on Sunday! Think that’s because I knew I only had 24 hours left!

I woke up, had breakfast, watched a bit of Titchmarsh and then got ready to meet Ellie. I’d written directions to Ellie’s down on Friday so I was looking forward to seeing if I’d be able to find my way there without getting lost!

Got to Ellie’s about 20 minutes early so decided to walk around Vauxhall park and failed to take photos that were any good YET AGAIN. After roaming around for a bit I could hear “ALIIIIIICE!!!” And Ellie was hanging out of her top floor flat like Rapunzel!

Was slightly worried on the way back because I’d told Gaz I’d ring him on the landline around 5pm-ish and it was now nearly 8.30pm. Called him when I got in and he had been a bit worried about where I was! But it was nice to chat and remind ourselves that we’d be back to our obsessive-texting-selves by Monday.

Monday 25 November

Woke up this morning and couldn’t wait to turn on my phone to find:

  • 10 Facebook notifications
  • 5 texts
  • 8 Snapchats
  • 16 emails
  • 3 Instagram likes

Got ready for work in my usual way… Checking my phone in bed, checking it after having a shower, drying my hair and putting my make-up on whilst texting/Facebooking, getting on the bus with my headphones on listening to Spotify (whilst browsing the web) and only taking them off when I stepped into the office. Yay, back to the 21st century!

Despite slipping straight back into my usual ways I think I have learned a lot this weekend. Such as:

  • I CAN find my way from A to B without Google maps
  • I don’t need to be in constant contact with people, and it feels much nicer and more special when the contact is more sparse and deliberate.
  • I can go to the gym without my phone, and I think I will from now on.
  • I feel very self-conscious and more self-aware when I am without my phone and headphones- particularly on public transport.
  • I obsessively tap my right pocket to check my phone’s in there – I CAN sit on my own and not flick through my phone. People are on their phones SO MUCH.
  • I need to learn how to use a Polaroid camera

Polaroid photos

It seems like the weekend had a long-lasting effect on Alice as she soon updated her blog.

Guess what…

I went to the gym this morning WITHOUT my phone. And I traveled to work WITHOUT my headphones on. WHAT’S HAPPENED TO ME!?!”

For your chance to get to grips with using a Polaroid camera, sign up for your own 48 hour detox. Digital Detox will be returning the first weekend in March. To meet previous detoxers find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Can you survive 48 hours without digital?

A whole weekend with no Facebook, no phone, no tablet, nothing with a screen. That is exactly the challenge we set 20 Scope supporters back in November when introducing our brand new fundraising event Digital Detox. The event encourages our supporters to take up the challenge and experience just real analogue life, without the interference of technology.

In need of a detox was John Doree who pledged to go without tech for 48 hours and to re-engage with the offline side of life.

The tech-y way of life

No digital for 48 hours. No smart phones. No internet. Have a good old fashioned weekend.

When I first saw the Digital Detox challenge email I thought I’d give it a go. It’s my first bit of active participation in a Scope event and I was eager to do something and Digital Detox seemed a really good fit. I use my phone quite a bit for internet and a bit of social network stuff, but on the whole my phone usage pales in comparison to my use of other gadgets and gizmos. I listen to my MP3 player almost constantly on headphones, read using a Kindle, play games on a laptop, write music using said laptop and a host of other noise-making bits of hardware.
Despite all those bits of technology, on a personal level I thought just giving up one device wouldn’t be enough. The idea of dropping as much technology as I could for 48 hours was one that I thought would be a real challenge. It turned out to be much harder in reality.

My friends thought it would be a real nightmare for me, they’ve known me as the tech-obsessed geek with a penchant for software development and creating electronic music, so the thought of me ditching it all for a weekend was an amusing one. I think this was reflected in the generous donations that found their way to my Just Giving page and I was all too happy to give people a dread-filled commentary on Facebook in the run-up to the big switch-off. There were some last-ditch efforts to ensure I wouldn’t be completely scuppered over the weekend, I got some money out as I was including Cashpoints as accessible technology, then I just about remembered to switch my alarms off and that was it.

How many times do you check your phone?

The urge to check my phone was overwhelming, it was quite saddening at times to realise how much I instinctively reach for it when I’m doing even the most innocuous things like waiting for the kettle to boil. No Saturday morning TV either. There’s never anything on but there’s usually something recorded from the week on the Sky box, but no, this wasn’t allowed either. No music player or CD player in the living room. Right, OK then.

My other half had left for the day to catch up with her friends so I was left on my own. What was I going to do? I had a bath and hung up the washing. I did the washing up and changed the sheets. I took down the rubbish and recycling. I finished all these things and thought, now what? Read a book? So I read a book and promptly had a nap. The flat was so quiet and even our typically noisy neighbours were evidently also taking the weekend off their favourite activity of banging on the walls. Time just seemed to stretch before me and midnight Sunday evening was now a very distant prospect. Our plan for the evening was to go to a friend’s birthday in Camden and so I was relieved of my self-imposed analogue nightmare.

A virtual power cut

Sunday was a little more difficult, not just for me but for my now-suffering partner. My Digital Detox was now threatening her own activities, she felt guilty about turning the TV on or playing around on her phone and so left them alone in favour of the two of us just sitting around and having a chat. As much as we both wanted to laze around in front of the TV on a Sunday afternoon, in the end we found just sitting around nattering away for several hours was just as enjoyable.

By the time I went to bed on the Sunday evening I found I wasn’t missing technology as much as I thought I would. I was certainly looking forward to catching up on emails and continuing reading some trashy novel on the Kindle, but the predicted binge of technology on the Monday evening never came to pass.

So much is taken for granted and I felt that simply giving up my phone alone wasn’t enough.

The Just Giving page set up by the events team included the following bit of text:

“The money raised through Scope’s Digital Detox could help provide an iPad and accessories, so a student with limited verbal communication can interact in a way they have never done before – using equipment they can control themselves.”

This really resonated with me so I thought to draw a parallel between the cause and the challenge itself by trying to severely reduce my access to as much technology as possible. In the end it was fun, and a considerable challenge but it was an event that showed me how immediately accessible a lot of technology is these days.

Digital Detox will be returning for the first weekend in March. Sign up for your own 48 hour detox and pledge to embrace your inner analogue. For more information on how to sign-up to ‘go dark’ for a weekend of good old-fashioned fun check out the website or phone 020 7619 7270. To meet previous detoxers find us on Facebook and Twitter.

The kindness of strangers

Guest post from Hayley. Hayley’s daughter Beth is three and has cerebral palsy. After they were told Beth would have to wait up to two years for an appropriate wheelchair, the whole family pulled together to raise funds so that they could buy her the chair she so desperately needed. But then their story caught the eye of an American stranger, who stepped in to help out.

Beth and Hayley
Beth and Hayley

I have the pleasure of bringing up my four beautiful children, alongside my husband Mark.

When my youngest child Beth was born it wasn’t too much of a shock that she was premature, all my children were born early, my eldest at just 29 weeks. But we were so lucky, after short stays in hospital they all thrived.

Tip toes

But when Beth turned one I noticed that she was struggling to walk properly – she was walking on her tip toes. The doctors kept telling me it was something ‘she’d grow out of’.

Beth then started to have seizures, and just after her second birthday she was eventually diagnosed with both cerebral palsy and epilepsy. There were a lot of tears.

Due to her seizures and the effects they have on her she is at times unable to walk safely or at all, so we were referred to NHS Wheelchair Services. We were told it would be a long wait for a suitable chair – as long as two years!

Our family pulled together

My beautiful cousin Kiera then surprised me by saying that she had signed up to do the 50 mile Longmynd Hike to raise money to get Beth her wheelchair. We backed her in every way we could. We got in touch with our local paper and they came and took pictures of Beth and Kiera.

I put the resulting article in the paper on a blog which is called Kristen’s Life with Cerebral Palsy. I wanted to let people who might also be struggling to get the support they need know that fundraising is sometimes an option when the usual routes don’t work.

Letters from America

I then received an email from somebody that I will forever be indebted to. A woman called Judy had seen the newspaper article on the blog, explained that her daughter Lydia’s old but immaculate chair would be perfect for Beth, and that she would love to donate it to us.

I thought – ‘what an amazingly lovely thing to do’. But there was another hurdle to get over – a problem we thought it would be impossible to overcome – you see Judy lives in the USA!

After looking into couriers to bring the chair over, and finding that it would cost thousands of dollars, we felt the idea of ever getting the chair to Beth was lost.

Woman on a mission

Then earlier this year, on a very normal Friday, my husband received a call from Manchester airport saying there was a delivery currently going through customs for me. I was puzzled. We didn’t have a clue what it could be at first…then the penny dropped…

Unbeknown to us Judy had become a woman on a mission. She had got in touch with Delta airlines and told them the story. Days later they had taken the chair and within 24 hours the chair was in England, absolutely free of charge!

There are not enough ‘thank yous’ in the world to pay back the generosity of Judy for making the impossible possible.

Friendship and freedom

Whilst speaking with Judy through emails I had learnt that her daughter Lydia needed a special chair for school. We decided there and then to send some of the money we had raised for our campaign to kick-start their own fundraising appeal. We donated the rest to Shropshire Cerebral Palsy Society.

Beth, who is now three, can now go everywhere with us now without any worries at all, and she loves her new freedom.

Before all this started we felt afraid of the future and didn’t have a clue about fundraising. Now after a further two more fundraising events, in total we have actually managed to raise an amazing £4,090 for Shropshire Cerebral Palsy Society.

I am so very proud of my fantastic family and we really feel anything is possible now. I want to tell other people not to be forced to go without what your child needs. Fight for everything and you will be rewarded.

Sumatran Jungle Challenge: “A phenomenal adventure”

Over the years, Shirley Butler, 78, has raised over £24,000 for us by taking part in our challenge treks. Her travels for Scope have taken her to Cambodia, The Grand Canyon, Vietnam and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro – to name just a few.

This September, she joined a group of committed trekkers venturing in to the Sumatran Jungle. Here is the story of her amazing journey.

The start of the adventure

If you want a great adventure then take up a Scope challenge. It was absolutely amazing! I will never forget my journey through the Sumatran jungle.

The Eco Lodge in Bukit Lawang
The Eco Lodge in Bukit Lawang

We flew from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur, then on to Medan, the capital of Sumatra. We eventually arrived at the beautiful Eco Lodge in the village of Bukit Lawang. “Gunung” means mountain, “Bukit” means hill, “Llawing” means door – Bukit Lawang means “The hill which is the gateway to the mountain.” Nice eh!

My room in the Eco Lodge had a bed covered with a mosquito net. A ceiling fan and a dressing table added a touch of luxury. Every morning we were woken by the sound of monkeys running across the roof throwing fruit at each other.

Jungle delights

Orangutans in the Sumatran jungle
Orangutans in the Sumatran jungle

Our trek into the jungle was one of the many highlights. The jungle is dense, dangerous and hot.

Indonesia has the largest flower on earth. It has a strong odour of decaying flesh and because of this it is nicknamed the ‘Corpse Flower’. We were introduced to another fruit called the durian. “It smells like hell but tastes like heaven” one local told us. Taxi drivers have been known to ask people to leave their vehicles because of the overpowering smell!

We saw great orangutans, Thomas leaf monkeys and hornbills. Our guide pointed out a particularly big orangutan by the name of Ucok Baba. Ucok had not been seen in the area for over 15 years, but had recently returned to take his place at the head of the pack.

Village life

Sumatran Jungle trekkers preparing to cross the river
Sumatran Jungle trekkers preparing to cross the river

We trekked through the forest gully up to our chests in river water. Then we returned to the village to spend time with our hosts. My escort invited me in to his home to meet his family, and they told me stories over tea and biscuits.

On the final day we all took part in the local tree planting programme. To give something back to this wonderful country was a privilege and a pleasure. A celebration dinner was organised that night with traditional food and music. It was one of the wildest parties I have ever been to. Such fun!

A phenomenal adventure

Participants in the Sumatran Jungle Challenge
Participants in the Sumatran Jungle Challenge

If I had to sum up the whole of the adventure in to one word it would be “phenomenal”. It was an amazing journey and every day brought something different. To have been part of this – and to have had the opportunity to raise money for Scope – I felt like the most privileged person to have ever walked this planet.

Shirley couldn’t stay away for long. She’s already signed up for Trek Burma next year!

Dates for the 2014 and 2015 Sumatran Jungle Challenge are now available. Or visit some of the most magical places on earth with our other treks and challenges.

Can I give more? The answer is usually yes.

For the past few months I have been writing blog posts to showcase the amazing grit and determination of our event participants as they’ve supported Scope by taking on marathons, triathlons and extreme bike rides.

Now it’s time to turn the spotlight on myself. I want to tell you about my personal running experience; the highs, the lows, and my motivation to pick up a pair of trainers again. The quote in the title is from Paul Tergat, a Kenyan professional marathon runner. I’ve found myself relating to him a lot recently!

The pledge

Back in April I made a promise to our director of fundraising, Alan Gosschalk, that at some point this event season I would get involved in a Scope challenge event. It’s almost a rite of passage in the events team.

Conveniently for me, my pledge went forgotten for some time. That was until we met our Ironman UK participants in Bolton in August. I told them it would be a walk in the park and that they would enjoy the whole experience – which made me feel like a total fraud!

I remembered my promise and decided it was time to stick to my word. That evening I signed up for my first ever 5K run.

These shoes were made for running…

I begun my training routine in earnest using the NHS couch to 5K training plan. I had seven weeks to make sure I would get round the course without stopping.

I decided to invest in a decent pair of running trainers after having gait analysis at a top running shop. Gait analysis is a system where the motion of your feet is analysed to make sure your get the correct footwear. This involves running on a treadmill at three different speeds whilst a staff member watches the angle of your feet.

I managed the 5K distance in training, and was aiming to improve my speed. But two days before my run disaster struck! On my last training run, I couldn’t even complete 500 metres. My shins were in agony. I hobbled home in tears, upset that my weeks of hard work had come to this.

But after talking to my brother – who was doing the run with me – I was determined to carry on. I thought the pain was caused by shin splints, pain and swelling in the lower legs as a result of my body not being used to running.

Race day

A hilly running route
A challenging course

On the day I turned up to Leeds Castle near Maidstone in Kent ready to give it my all. I hadn’t done my research on the course and was shocked when I was faced with a cross-country, hilly route. I had only trained on the roads in suburban London!

There was no time to worry about that though. The klaxon went and my adrenaline kicked in. Thankfully, my brother stayed with me the whole way, chatting to me non-stop and helping to keep my mind off the pain.

Sarah Bowes after completing a 5K run
Happy after completing my first 5K

We crossed the finish line in exactly 37 minutes and I was thrilled! It took a good 48 hours to wipe the huge smile from my face and I was incredibly proud that I had actually done it, bursting into tears of exhilaration.

It may not be the quickest time but I know that my efforts in training and fundraising would make a big difference to the cause I was supporting.

The future?

Eight and a half weeks ago I couldn’t run the 200m from my house to the top of the road and I’m more determined than ever not to get in that state again. My doctor confirmed that the pain in my legs is shin splints so I have three weeks off from running, dancing or jumping to recover.

But I will be back to running as soon as I can. I know 5km is not the longest of distances but for me it was a big personal challenge that I managed to overcome.

My brother and I are already looking to do another 5K before Christmas. My aim for 2014 is to get a minute a month off my 5K time by pushing myself like Paul Tergat. When I can comfortably do a 30 minute 5K I will increase my distance and go for 10K. Watch this space!

If my story has encouraged you to get up off the couch, take a look at what Scope event you could get involved in next year.

The toughest Ironman on the planet? Done.

Guest post from Scope fundraiser – and Ironman – Tom Partridge

On 8 September Pembrokeshire played host once again to Ironman Wales. 1,675 athletes from 40 countries took on the strength-sapping course and I was in the group of participants facing the open water sea swim off the coast of Tenby.

Ironman Wales is a 2.4 mile sea swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a marathon all rolled into one. The race has quickly gained a reputation for being one of the most gruelling events in the Ironman calendar.

My motivation

Tom's broken shoulder
Tom’s broken shoulder

Ironman had been on my list of things to do for a while. This year I turned 30 and it was time to be good to my word and get on and do it! I figured that while I was putting in the time and training effort, why not raise some money for a great charity, Scope, along the way.

Training was intense, fun, tiring, testing, rewarding, boring, long and at times so brutal. I had to overcome a shoulder injury I’d had earlier in the year. I knew I’d need every bit to help me prepare for the physical and mental challenge of completing the mammoth distance in under 17 hours.

Raising money for Scope was a great motivation and the support and donations that have been generated have been PHENOMENAL. It was an honour to be sponsored, and to give other young people the chance to fulfil their dreams. Not completing was not an option! 

A great day

The swim transition
The swim transition

On the day, it could not have gone better for me. The swimming conditions were great and I felt ready after three days of preparing in Tenby.

The swim is always hectic with 1,600 people fighting in the water for the first lap. You only get into the rhythm on the second lap.

Legging it through town to the swim-to-bike transition was epic. People were cheering and I got high fives off supporters. Seeing my friends and family on the route was ace.

Then my weakest section – the bike ride. But the £400 bike I got from eBay did me proud. Painted in my race colours, we flew past the £5,000 bikes with their punctures and troubles.

My aim with the marathon was to keep going slow and to keep injury free. I went at a comfortable pace, waving to the family on each lap and revelling in the amazing support through town. My last lap was tough, but all the cheering sent me down the finishing straight.

So how well did I do?

Tom at the Ironman Wales finish
Tom at the Ironman Wales finish

I managed to complete the whole course in: 12 hours, 52 minutes and 5 secs. This put me in 489th place overall.

I am over the moon with my times and achievements of the day and also the amount of money I have been able to raise in the process.

I have huge amounts of thanks and praise to give to everyone who donated and supported me in reaching the current total, well in excess of £1,400.

In addition, I have to say a huge thanks to my friends and family for their time and patience during this process (especially Jo and Felix) and of course, the supporters and people of Tenby who made the 8th September one of the greatest days of my life so far!

If it doesn’t already sound tough enough to you, take a look at the coverage of the event to see even the elites struggling with the course.

Tom’s hard work and determination has meant that he has already raised more than his fundraising target and you can still sponsor him. He has been keeping a blog of his training and Ironman experiences, and you can look at all his images from the day on his Facebook page. If you’ve put becoming an Ironman on your list of things to do in 2014, we still have places available.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”

In July we introduced you to Team Scope athlete, Mike Jones, as he prepared to take part in Ironman Sweden. The following is an unknown text that he has come across which we’re sure will be very apt for a number of you: 

“In a race and finding it hard, look back, not just at the people who are running behind you but especially at those who don’t run and never will… those who run but don’t race…those who started training for a race but didn’t carry through…those who got to the starting line but didn’t the finish line…those who once raced better than you but no longer run at all. You’re still here. Take pride in wherever you finish. Look at all the people you’ve outlasted.”

These sentiments are even more appropriate for Mike looking back on his Ironman experience.

For those that do not know by now, I got to cross the finish line in Kalmar, however was outside “Lock Down”. But for me that was job done. This was the first time I’d completed the full 140.2 miles of an Ironman or Long Course Triathlon and what an incredible experience. When that moment came to cross that line, and even though it was late, I was given a reception I will never forget.

The people of Kalmar

A little about Ironman Sweden and  I hope to do the event justice. I have to start with the people of Kalmar and the surrounding area. A city that normally has 30 thousand people rose to over 100 thousand on the day. All around the bike and run course there were constant Ironman Parties that went on all day which created an atmosphere I have never experienced. Getting stopped in the street the following day and being greeted as a “hero,” “the man that did not stop” by people just out and about their daily lives is still leaving me speechless.

The course itself

The swim course was one of the most technical I have swum over that distance. Sighting was a little bit of a problem as I was not able to pick up the next turn buoy until late. But the last 1k at least brought you so close to the shore where the support was like swimming in a pool. This probably made it a bit easier as all I needed to do was follow the long line people shouting encouragement in their respective languages. Overall for me not a fast swim, but conditions were not that easy either.

The bike has been in the past for me where it has all gone wrong. I now have a new PB for the 112 miles, taking a massive 2 hours plus off my previous best. As for the course, the roads for the majority of the distance were like a race track (Britain you have a lot to learn).

The Marathon run course was 3 loops of Kalmar and district. It was quite early on when I felt the need to go into survival mode and with the words of Tracy Williams in my head, “every step forward is a step closer to the finishing line.” It took me more than 8 miles just to get into any sort of rhythm.

Determination to finish

At one point I had to sit down to consider if I was going to carry on, when a gust of wind blew me to my feet. It was time to believe – I think by this time finishing had become more important than time. If I was to analyse the run element then the following would be the key point: yes, I had trained for the run, but with past experiences I had not trained enough… surprising how much the mind influences training plans.

The reception coming into Kalmar at the end of this loop was in the words of Burt Le Berock, “unbelievable, just unbelievable.” The encouragement both from the people present and those at home over a thousand miles away was the drive to go on to the last 18k loop. This was going to push me forward. A few safety checks from the organisers and I was allowed to continue, I now just needed to give a little bit more.

The Name of the Game was to cover 140.2 miles and with the support of many this was done. Now is a time to reflect on what I have achieved and what I wish to do in the future. One thing I already know is that I will not be giving into my Neuromuscular Condition.

Future events?

Mike went on to get a great time in the Bupa Great North Run, setting a new PB for a half marathon distance. 2014 will prove to be a busy year for him, taking on the Bath Half Marathon in March, the Eton 10k swim in May and the Outlaw Long Course Triathlon covering 140.6 miles in July to name but a few! We wish him all the best as he continues his fundraising and for his events next year.

If you’ve been tempted to take part in a triathlon or endurance event then make sure you check out what we have to offer.

Film of the week: “Leaving a gift in our will in our daughter’s name”

Scope have been promoting the importance of legacies (gifts left by generous supporters in their wills) over the past couple of weeks. The gifts left to us make up almost a third of the money we raise each year so they’re a vital source of income for us as a charity.

We went to visit two of our pledgers, Gordon and Sheena Halcrow, to find out why they thought it was such an important thing to do.

If you’d like to find out more about leaving a gift in your will to Scope, then visit the Legacy pages on our website.

Will you catch “the running bug”?

Like many of us, Ellen O’Donohoe was more likely to put her feet up on an evening then get out and go for a run. But that all changed when she caught the ‘running bug’ from her housemate and in just three weeks time Ellen will be running her first ever half marathon for Scope at Run to the Beat. Like many of our participant’s, Ellen’s motivations for signing-up with Scope are personal – here’s her story documenting her training, injuries and fundraising over the past few months:

I was never very sporty growing up. I was always happier reading a book rather than playing sports. I surprised myself by getting into running. I was looking for a way to exercise (to lose some weight, if I’m honest) and decided that sticking to an exercise routine would be easier with a friend so I began joining my housemate who liked to run. It took a while, and I didn’t see it happening, but I grew to love running.

A tough Winter

Even so, earlier this year, during the bitterly cold winter months, I was finding it harder and harder  to go running. I decided to sign up for a race, something I’ve never done before,  so that I would have something to work towards. Running for charity made sense to me because I knew it would help to keep me motivated. My cousin had cerebral palsy and knowing of the support that Scope provides to people like her made me want to raise money for them.

The highs and lows of training

I started training right away, I had a long way to go from my two-three miles every week. I steadily increased the miles I was doing and was very proud the first time I reached 10K. Something I never would have believed I could do just a few years ago. Unfortunately, I pushed too hard and pulled a calf muscle. It was so frustrating. I was unable to run for six weeks!

Ellen's Colleagues Limbering Up for their Bleep Test

During that time I focused on fundraising instead. I organised a sponsored bleep test at work and convinced a few colleagues to join me. I planned it well in advance so my leg had time to heal (although it was close) five racers took part, including myself, and together we raised nearly £80.

Ellen's relieved finishers!A dash to the confidence

To help with my training and to get me used to the race atmosphere I signed up for a shorter race. I agreed to be part of a relay team for the Upton Tri in July, running 10k. It happened to fall on one of the hottest days of the year. By the time I was due to run my section the temperature had already reached 30 degrees. It was horrible. I made it half way around before the heat got the better of me and forced me to walk/run the rest. It took me a long time to reach the finish line, so much longer than I hoped. I finished the race disheartened, wishing I could have done better and worried about what this might mean for the race in September.

A little over a week later, I ran 10 miles for the first time in training. It did wonders for my confidence. It was such a difference from my practice race. For the first time I felt that no matter what happened, I would be able to make it across the finish line.

Injury free until race day?

As far as fundraising goes, my friends and family have been very generous. I still have a little way to go to reach my target but I’m hopeful I’ll make it. For now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will stay injury free until race day. Despite all the ups and downs that I now know comes with training I hope, that by race day, I will be strong enough and prepared enough to run the whole 13.1 miles.

If you’d like to sponsor Ellen and help her reach her fundraising goal then do visit her online giving page. We’ll be there on race day to cheer Ellen and our other Team Scope runners along the Run to the Beat course – if you’d like to be there with us then please do volunteer by emailing us at events@scope.org.uk. Or why not take on your own challenge for Scope?

Are you limited by your challenges or are you challenging your limits?

When Team Scope member Mike Jones contacted our events team and told us he is taking part in the Ironman Sweden at Kalmar in August for Scope, we were blown away by his determination. Over the last two years he has attempted Ironman Wales but has been unsuccessful – any competitor will tell you that the exhausting event will bring out your weaknesses and for Mike it did just that. 

After enduring foot pain throughout the event, and following discussions with his GP, Mike was referred to a Neuromuscular Consultant who confirmed a long-standing problem that has been masked since child-hood, only materialising in his early 50’s. Mike has kept his own blog over the past few months as he trains for the event whilst searching for a firm diagnosis of his condition – he has recently had tests for Cerebral Palsy and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease – but here is an extract from his most recent post as he reflects on his latest endurance events.

From LLanelli to Eton, Nottingham to Port Talbot

I think my theme for the last few weeks must be “Another Town, Another Train(ing) race”. This has seen me travel from Llanelli to Eton, Nottingham to Port Talbot to take part in three endurance events in 13 days, some would say “burning my bridges” but it was something I needed to do. The first of the three was at Eton Dorney, this was for the Human Race Open Water Swim Series, the 10K swim. Looking back I was so glad that my open water training had started two months ago in North Dock, as even I would admit on the day it was cold.

Mike Jones

A six day turn around and it was off to Nottingham for the inaugural Outlaw Half, a Middle Distance Tri based in and around the National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrepont. There were a few areas of my preparations that I wished to try out ready for Kalmar. So time was not a goal for the day, completion yes. The swim, which was a simple loop, went without a hitch. The bike leg went as expected and again the plan was to pace myself and not get carried away with speed / time if I was feeling good. The course was good, not flat but with only one part that could be classed as a hill. So on to the half marathon, well what can I say –  it started off well! However after about four miles the problems with pain in my feet returned so it was in to the familiar survival mode to ensure completion, which has been the normal now for a few events. This continuous stopping was (is) causing problems with me getting into any sort of rhythm. The positive is that I now know something about the medical condition that is causing this problem, so all I need to work out is a plan of action for future events.

A potential solution

One consideration is to change the way in which I tie up my laces, at present the use of elastic laces with my Pes Cavus feels that I am wearing an elastic band around my feet so not getting any relief. It was due to the number of times I was taking my shoes off to rub my feet that this style of laces where introduced, so going to replace with normal laces using a non-traditional method to lace up. Also what I am now considering is instead of pushing on until the foot pain becomes a problem is to build into my run plan stops to self-massage my feet before it gets to the unbearable pain level, this may mean a short stop at regular intervals no matter how I am feeling.

The Future

At present I am still confused over the results of the medical tests over the last few months, as all I am getting is the observations from these tests. What is confusing me is there is no definitive condition being diagnosed other than a “Neuromuscular Condition” which is long-standing – this term is so general it seems someone is afraid to put a tag on the condition. So the saga of “Atrophy of the Thoracic Spinal Cord” along with “Upper Motor Neurone” signs goes on and on and on. The wait for further appointments continues and it feels at present a race against time for me to plan for the future, but as the mantra goes “you’re never a loser until you quit trying”, and guess what my plan is. It is at this point I start wondering what and where the months will take me – I have a dream.

With little over 4 weeks to go Mike is clearly determined to take part in the event and give it all he can, firmly following the Ironman’s mantra “Anything is Possible.” We wish him all the best as he is also fundraising and running for Scope in the Great North Run this September.

If you’ve been tempted to take part in a triathlon or endurance event then make sure you check out what we have to offer.